Marijuana is often called a ‘gateway drug’. In the 1980s, US President Raegan’s administration popularised the theory that cannabis use is the bridge – or gate – leading to the use of harder drugs.
Do Gateway Drugs lead to Addiction, and is Marijuana one of them?
What is a Gateway Drug?
A gateway drug is a term that is often used in reference to substances that are thought to pave the way to more dangerous and/or harder drugs like cocaine or heroin. The drugs are thought to increase the likelihood of developing an addiction, either to that gateway drug itself or to lead to a stronger substance.
It is also important to note that the term ‘gateway drug’ is not a medical term but a colloquial one and it also holds a controversial idea. There are a number of studies that puts marijuana in a bad light, indicating that it leads to the usage of other drugs in the future. However, this theory has been debunked countless times.
Examples of what are considered Gateway Drugs
Although there is not one main issue that a gateway drug will lead to other substances, there are several substances that are commonly indicated as leading towards a path of addiction and irrational use.
- Nicotine: contains nitrogen and it is a highly addictive substance and can lead many people to depend on cigarettes and tobacco.
- Alcohol: is generally considered the last taboo to have since it is consumed socially. However, alcohol can lead to people being dependent on it.
However, similar to the marijuana argument, although nicotine and alcohol can be seen as gateway drugs, it does not mean that every person that consumes the two substances will move on to greater and more dangerous substances.
Marijuana as a Gateway Drug
This whole idea was based on the observation that people who use recreational drugs often start off by using cannabis. Some also suggest that cannabis affects the neural pathways in the brain that cause people to develop a ‘taste’ for drugs. This demonisation of cannabis as the ‘gateway drug’ led to the widespread, severe criminalisation of the possession and personal use of cannabis.
However, there is little to no evidence to back up these claims. In fact, over the years, various scientific journals debunked this theory. While many people do use cannabis before using other drugs, this fact alone is not proof that it was in fact marijuana that caused them to move on and do other substances.
Research showed cannabis, as the most widely used illicit substance, is of course more likely to be used by persons who also make consume hard drugs. The reason for this could be that, just like nicotine and alcohol, cannabis is generally easier to access and afford than other drugs – which is why someone might start off with cannabis. However, such correlation, cannot be correctly defined as causation, and therefore, cannabis use is not related to a higher probability of other drugs.
Do Gateway Drugs lead to Addiction?
The issue of whether gateway drugs lead to addiction is harder to answer, although a lot of theories have debunked this claim. According to various studies, including one done by The New York Times, most people who smoke weed do not progress to other drugs.
Instead, there are a number of factors that might lead to drug progression such as poverty, aggressive crime, and social environment.
Although there is still the misconception and stigma that marijuana leads to harder drugs, studies show that this is not the case!
Keep checking out our blog for more tips and updates on cannabis in Malta!